Leaked documents on Uighur detention camps in China – an expert explains the key revelations



Omer Bekali, a former detainee in China’s vast camps for Uighurs, Kazakhs and other Muslim minorities, speaking to a news conference in Germany about his experiences.
Felipe Trueba/EPA

Michael Clarke, Australian National University

This past weekend, The New York Times’ China correspondents, Chris Buckley and Austin Ramzy, published an expose of over 400 internal Chinese government documents relating to Beijing’s mass detentions of Uighurs, Kazakhs and other Muslim minorities in the far-western region of Xinjiang.

This trove of documents includes 96 internal speeches by Chinese President and Communist Party (CCP) Chairman Xi Jinping, as well as hundreds of speeches and directives by other CCP officials on the strategies of surveillance and control implemented in the region.

The documents confirm previous analyses by researchers on key aspects of the Chinese government’s so-called “reeducation” system for Uighurs. They also reveal new details on both the timing and rationale for the mass detentions and the extent of opposition within the CCP to this approach.

Most importantly, however, the documents confirm Xi’s high level of personal involvement in driving the campaign of repression in Xinjiang.

What the documents confirm

A number of Xi’s internal speeches confirm previous assessments of the reasons behind the implementation of the government’s mass detention and “reeducation” policies.

It’s clear from the documents that fears of potential connections between violence in Xinjiang and Islamic extremism in neighbouring Afghanistan and the battlefields of Iraq and Syria played a key role in Xi’s call for a “people’s war on terrorism”.




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In one speech, for instance, Xi remarks that with the American troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, “terrorist organisations” would be “positioned on the frontiers of Afghanistan and Pakistan” while

East Turkestan terrorists who have received real-war training in Syria and Afghanistan could at any time launch terrorist attacks in Xinjiang.

In this context, a number of high-profile terrorist attacks that have occurred in China in recent years, including a train station attack in Kunming and a bombing at a marketplace in Xinjiang’s capital, Urumqi, appear to have confirmed such fears.

As Xi asserted during a visit to a counterterrorism police unit in Urumqi the same month as the marketplace attack, the party must “unleash” the “tools of dictatorship” and “show absolutely no mercy” in its eradication of “extremists”.

Police investigating the knife attacks at Kunming’s train station in 2014, which left 31 people dead and 140 wounded.
Sui Shui/EPA

The documents also demonstrate that the CCP’s recent tendency to frame both “extremists” and religious believers more broadly through the language of biological contagion or drug addiction comes from the top.

Xi himself states that those “infected” by “extremism” would require “a period of painful, interventionary treatment”, lest they have

their consciences destroyed, lose their humanity and murder without blinking an eye.

This language of paternalistic state intervention is not mere rhetoric, but concretely guides policy on the ground.




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This is evident in one document prepared to assist local officials in the city of Turpan respond to queries by Uighur children of relatives sent to “reeducation” camps.

If officials are asked why those sent to the detention centres cannot return home, for example, they should answer by noting the party would be “irresponsible” to

let a member of your family go home before their illness was cured.

Rather, children should be grateful to the state for the detention of their family members and should

treasure this chance for free education that the party and government has provided to thoroughly eradicate erroneous thinking, and also learn Chinese and job skills.

The Turpan document also confirms the link between “reeducation” and forced labour. It notes family members undergoing “reeducation” can

find a satisfying job in one of the businesses that we’ve brought in or established.

As American researcher Darren Byler has detailed, detainees are often compelled to work as low-skilled labour in factories either directly connected to re-education centres or, upon their “release”, in nearby industrial parks where Chinese companies have been incentivised to relocate.

Key revelations in the reporting

There are several major revelations associated with the documents, as well. Most significant of all, according to the Times, is the fact the documents were leaked

by a member of the Chinese political establishment who requested anonymity and expressed hope that their disclosure would prevent party leaders, including Mr. Xi, from escaping culpability for the mass detentions.

Beyond such a (presumably) high-placed official, the leaked documents and reporting also reveal a greater level of dissent and uncertainty within lower levels of the party than previously understood.

Internal party documents note 12,000 investigations in 2017 alone into party members in Xinjiang for “violations” in the “fight against separatism and extremism”.

The leaked documents reflect Chinese President Xi Jinping’s personal involvement in driving the campaign of repression in Xinjiang.
Andre Coelho/EPA

The case of CCP official Wang Yongzhi, detailed by Buckley and Ramzy, is indicative here.

According to a “confession”, the local party chief in Yarkand in the far south of Xinjiang initially followed central policy directives by zealously building “two sprawling new detention facilities, including one as big as 50 basketball courts” and “doubling spending on outlays such as checkpoints and surveillance”.

However, fearing mass detentions would negatively impact on economic development goals and social cohesion – key benchmarks for achieving promotion within the party – Wang “broke the rules” and released thousands of detainees.

For this, he was removed from his post in 2017 and in an internal party report six months later was openly castigated for his “brazen defiance” of the “central leadership’s strategy for Xinjiang”.




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Wang’s case demonstrates the existence of competing incentives at the local level in the implementation of centrally dictated policy.

His “brazen defiance” was not a principled stand against mass detentions but rather a pragmatic consideration of the potentially negative effects on his career should detentions undermine broader policy goals.

In this regard, it feels like a fairly typical experience of a low-level official in any authoritarian or totalitarian regime around the world.

It is this mundane quality that gives at least a kernel of hope the naked self-interest of party officials may play a part in pressuring the leadership to eventually reverse course on its Uighur detention policies.

However, given the stark and cold-blooded language revealed in the documents, this may prove to be a forlorn one.The Conversation

Michael Clarke, Associate Professor, National Security College, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Chinese embassy says Liberal critics Hastie and Paterson should “repent”


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The Chinese embassy has lashed out at two Liberal members of parliament, Andrew Hastie and James Paterson, saying they would need to “repent and redress their mistakes” before they would be welcome in China.

The attack came after the pair, strong critics of the Beijing regime, were refused visas to take part in a trip sponsored by the think tank China Matters.

In a statement late Friday regretting they had been refused entry, Hastie and Paterson said they were “particularly disappointed that the apparent reason why we are not welcome in China at this time is our frankness about the Chinese Communist Party”.

They added they would “always speak out in defence of Australia’s values, sovereignty and national interest.”

The embassy hit back, saying:

The Chinese people do not welcome those who make unwarranted attacks, wantonly exert pressure on China, challenge China’s sovereignty, disrespect China’s dignity and undermine mutual trust between China and Australia.

As long as the people concerned genuinely repent and redress their mistakes, view China with objectivity and reason, respect China’s system and mode of development chosen by the Chinese people, the door of dialogue and exchanges will always remain open.

Both Hastie and Peterson said on Sunday they would not be repenting.

China Matters has postponed the study tour, which was due to take place next month.

It said the goal of the tours it sponsored was “to facilitate free-flowing, off-the-record and informal discussions” with citizens in China.

In previous tours “no issues have been left unaddressed, including our concerns about the plight of Uighurs in Xinjiang and the ongoing protest movement in Hong Kong”. It was “unfortunate” the politicians’ names had become public before the visit, China Matters said in its statement.

‘Private trip’

China Matters describes itself as “an independent Australian policy institute established to advance sound policy and to stimulate a realistic and nuanced discussion of the PRC among Australian business, government and the security establishment.”

The government is trying to keep out of the controversy, saying it was a privately sponsored trip.

Labor frontbencher Stephen Jones told Sky:“I think because of the mismanagement of this government, we’ve got relations with China probably an all-time low”.

Concerns reinforced

Meanwhile Foreign Minister Marise Payne said the leak of top secret documents published by the New York Times showing the treatment of Uighurs and other minorities reinforced concerns previously expressed by Australia.

Some of the 400 pages of documents detailing the treatment of China’s Uighur minority leaked to the New York Times.
NYT

The New York Times reported that the more than 400 pages, leaked from within the Communist Party, “provide an unprecedented inside view of the continuing clampdown in Xinjiang, in which the authorities have corralled as many as a million ethnic Uighurs, Kazakhs and others into internment camps and prisons over the past three years”.

Payne said: “I have previously raised Australia’s strong concerns about reports of mass detentions of Uighurs in Xinjiang.

“We have consistently called for China to cease the arbitrary detention of Uighurs and other groups. We have raised these concerns – and we will continue to raise them both bilaterally and in relevant international meetings.”The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

New research shows Chinese migrants don’t always side with China and are happy to promote Australia



Australian media coverage of China can feel alienating to Chinese migrants, but most still hold a positive view of their adopted country.
Lukas Coch/AAP

Wanning Sun, University of Technology Sydney

The Australian government has indicated that “diaspora communities” are crucial to Australia’s public diplomacy mission to promote the country abroad. It has also identified online and social media as essential “public diplomacy tools”.

But in terms of projecting an attractive image of Australia to potential tourists, students and investors in China, the task is not that simple.

Too often, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s earnest soft power goals are undermined by various political agendas and concerns over foreign interference and national security.

As for the media, the ABC has attempted to connect with Chinese audiences by offering some of its online content in Mandarin. But the ABC’s coverage can still feel alienating to Chinese migrants. This stems from a feeling that much of its reporting conforms to a pre-determined narrative of the danger of China’s rising influence in the country.




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What Chinese migrants think of Australia

The role of Chinese migrants in public diplomacy, meanwhile, is little understood.

Earlier this year, we conducted a survey of more than 800 Australia-based, Mandarin-speaking social media users as part of a study of Chinese-language digital and social media in Australia.

Our aim was to determine how Chinese migrants view both Australia and China, how news coverage of both countries shapes these views, and whether they feel they have a role to play in promoting either country.




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We asked participants whether they have generally positive views about their experience of living or studying in Australia and how often they share these views with potential Chinese visitors or migrants to Australia.

Perhaps surprisingly, our survey respondents answered with a resounding “yes”, despite the alienation they sometimes feel from English-language media and a sense their allegiance to Australia is regularly being questioned.

When asked how often they share positive stories about Australia via Chinese social media platforms, 72% of respondents said they often or sometimes shared such information.



A similar level of pro-Australian sentiment was evident when participants were asked how often they share negative stories about Australia from the local Chinese media or English-language media. (For example, stories about the high cost of living, racism against Chinese or the boring lifestyle.) Nearly 77% said they rarely or never share such stories.

When asked with whom they share positive or negative stories about Australia, nearly two-thirds said “Chinese people living in China”, while 28% said Chinese immigrants living elsewhere in the world.

Interestingly, our survey participants’ willingness to promote Australia to Chinese people worldwide did not mean they had negative views about China. Nearly 80% said they would also be willing to promote China to Australians as a tourist destination or potential place for business opportunities.

Not overly pro-China on sensitive issues

This speaks to the ability of Chinese migrants to sustain dual loyalties to Australia and China, without much apparent conflict between the two.

Our respondents also showed a considerable degree of sophistication in their views on China–Australia relations and issues the Australian media typically present in a polarising manner. When asked whether they sided with China or Australia on these issues, we saw an interesting split.



For example, a significant number of participants said they sided with China in relation to disputes over Huawei (73%) and the South China Sea (79%). However, support for China was dramatically lower in relation to China’s influence in Australia (40%), trade disputes (38%) and, perhaps most surprisingly to many Australians, human rights (just 22%).

Even though they didn’t back China on these last four issues, participants didn’t give their unambiguous support to the Australian viewpoint, either. The number of respondents who chose “not sure” on these four issues ranged between 32% and 45%.

Human rights was the only issue where more respondents sided with the Australian viewpoint rather than China’s (46% compared to 22%).

Negative news on China leads to unhappiness

Similarly, when respondents were asked how they felt about negative news about China or the Chinese government in the Australian media, they expressed a range of opinions.



Respondents were nearly equally split on the fairness of such reporting, with 27% saying they felt the Western media portrayed China in an overly negative light and 22% saying they felt such reporting allowed them to know the truth about China.

The most popular response, however, was telling: 35% of participants said they felt unhappy because of the hostility of the Australian media to China, regardless of whether or not the reporting was truthful.

This suggests that while most Chinese-Australians are generally supportive of Australia, the mainstream media’s narrow focus on China’s influence seems to impact negatively on their happiness and overall feeling of connectedness with Australian society.




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What this means for public diplomacy

Overall, Chinese migrants in Australia are spreading a positive message about the country voluntarily. They do so without any support from the Australian government, and despite the often negative reporting about China in the Australian media and hyperbolic public aspersions cast on them.

Based on our findings, it would behove the Australian government to try and find ways to harness this largely bottom-up, pro-Australian, word-of-mouth energy in the service of public diplomacy.

This is especially important now, given the dire state of diplomatic relations between our two countries.The Conversation

Wanning Sun, Professor of Media and Cultural Studies, University of Technology Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

As the prime minister heads to ASEAN, trade, Vietnam and China will be high on the agenda


Tony Walker, La Trobe University

Given a world in turmoil, an ASEAN leadership three-day summit to begin in Bangkok this weekend has slipped off radar screens. But this is not to say the event lacks importance.

The year-end summit of leaders of the 10 ASEAN nations plus eight dialogue partners may well prove one of the more significant regional gatherings, historically.

Away from the tumult in Europe over Brexit, the United States over impeachment, and a US-China trade war, ASEAN and partners have been quietly working to put in place two constructive initiatives.

The first is the bare bones of a mega trade deal that would knit together ASEAN members plus six regional partners. The second is progress towards a regional security framework.




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Neither of these initiatives will be fully consummated this weekend. But, if progress is made, the Bangkok 2019 summit may well come to be regarded as more than a pro forma talkfest.

Let’s start with negotiations over a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). If the ASEAN summit reaches agreement to push ahead with this initiative, with the aim of completion over the next 12 months, this would represent an important advance in the liberalisation of regional trade.

The RCEP, proposed by China as a counter to the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) from which it was excluded, would bring together the ASEAN 10 plus six dialogue partners.

The ASEAN 10 are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. The dialogue partners are Australia, China, Japan, India, New Zealand and South Korea.

Needless to say, a trade liberalisation pact that accounts for 45% of the world’s population and a third of global GDP would represent a momentous development, potentially.

The TPP is a free trade agreement that was renamed the Comprehensive Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) after Donald Trump withdrew the United States from it in 2016.

That agreement brings together 11 regional countries, some of which are ASEAN members and would also be parties to the RCEP. The awkwardly acronymed CPTPP comprises Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

This is a significant trading bloc. However, it would be dwarfed by an RCEP, dominated by China and India, with the emerging economies of Indonesia and Vietnam as part of the mix.

The RCEP is an important initiative. It matters from a trading standpoint and as a regional power balance in the ongoing strategic rivalry between China and the US.

Beijing correctly views the initiative as a means of countering US-initiated trade and other pressures.

From an Australian standpoint, an RCEP would serve the useful function of providing more certainty to a liberalising regional trading environment.

Australia has a free trade agreement in place with ASEAN and other members of the proposed RCEP, including, importantly, China, Japan and South Korea.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will attend the Bangkok summit along with Trade Minister Simon Birmingham, reflecting the importance Canberra attaches to these events.

The vast proportion of Australian trade resides in its trading relationships with RCEP countries, principally China, Japan, South Korea and India.

Australia’s trade with ASEAN, both merchandise and services, totals more than A$50 billion a year, or about 12% of Australia’s total exports.

At the same time, ASEAN countries’ investment in Australia exceeds A$118 billion. These are significant numbers.

Among all of Australia’s trading partners, six RCEP parties – or seven if you include Hong Kong as part of China – are in the top 10 Australian export destinations.

These are, in order, China, Japan, South Korea, India, New Zealand, Singapore and Hong Kong. Making up the 10 are the US, Taiwan and the United Kingdom.

This brings us to one of the principal drags on an RCEP deal in Bangkok.

Indian concerns about Chinese goods flooding its market remain a sticking point under any RCEP arrangement. New Delhi is seeking safeguard mechanisms that would guard against surges in imports and what it regards as unfair competition. India’s particular concerns relate to its vulnerable agriculture sector.

Whether these Indian reservations can be satisfied in time for a broad agreement to proceed with the RCEP in time for the Bangkok summit remains to be seen.




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There is another important issue that will feature in Bangkok and on which progress is far from certain. These are matters relating to China’s assertiveness in the South China Sea. Beijing is in dispute with five ASEAN members over conflicting territorial claims: Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei.

Conflict with Vietnam over potentially oil-rich territorial waters is the most vexatious of these disputes.

At previous ASEAN sessions, China has aligned itself with client states like Cambodia to bully and block reasonable discussion about its territorial ambitions.

In efforts to reduce tensions over Beijing’s behaviour, ASEAN negotiators hope to achieve a “first reading” of a code of conduct for the South China Sea that would provide some sort of framework for resolving disputes.

It’s not clear whether China will go along with such an initiative.

Judging by remarks made by China’s defence minister, General Wei Fenghe, at a recent defence forum, Beijing will be reluctant to yield ground. He said:

We will not relinquish a single inch of territory passed down from our forefathers.The Conversation

Tony Walker, Adjunct Professor, School of Communications, La Trobe University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Morrison says China knows ‘where Australia is coming from’, after meeting Chinese vice-president


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Scott Morrison seized the opportunity of his Jakarta weekend visit for Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s inauguration to obtain a meeting with Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan.

Morrison told a news conference he had come out of the discussion “pleased that there is, I think, a very clear understanding of where Australia is coming from, our commitment to the relationship”.

“It was a chat that we had very much in the spirit of the partnership that we have, and very much inoculated from all of the assessments that are made about the relationship,” he said.

The meeting comes after Morrison’s description, while in the United States, of China as a “developed” economy, which China rejects. More generally, the relationship between the two countries has been very cool, with tensions on several fronts including Australia’s strong legislative stand against Chinese interference.

The discussion with Wang did not see an invitation for Morrison to visit China. The Prime Minister said Wang was an envoy of President Xi Jinping and not in a position to issue any invitation.

Wang, speaking at the start of their discussion, made it clear Australia had sought the meeting and Xi had given his approval for it. The discussion went for almost double the half hour scheduled.




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Morrison told reporters he’d made the point “which was well received, that Australia is an independent, sovereign nation.

“Yes, we are very much proud of our Western liberal democratic tradition, our open economy and our engagement with the rest of the world and that gives us a set of eyes that look into the world very much from our perspective.”

But he had also stressed “that we will never feel corralled into any sort of binary assessment of these relationships” – assessments that said “pro-United States or pro-China”.

Meanwhile a Lowy Institute report, released Monday, warns that without an increase in its total aid budget Australia could be increasingly at a strategic disadvantage in the Pacific.

The research, which focuses on China’s expanding role there, concludes that so far “China has not been engaged in such problematic debt practices in the Pacific as to justify accusations of debt trap diplomacy”. But the scale of its lending and recipient countries’ lack of strong mechanisms to protect their debt sustainability mean there are clear risks, the paper says.

In contrast, Australia’s infrastructure lending plans contain rules to protect the sustainability of borrowing countries.




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Making a strong call for a rethink of the overall Australian aid budget, the paper argues: “Today, Australia’s strategic goal of doing more in the Pacific is boxed in by a limited aid budget, the desire to avoid cutting back on other important development priorities (such as health and education, or aid to countries outside the Pacific), and the need to avoid causing debt sustainability problems by relying too heavily on non-concessional lending.

“If Australia wants to do more, one of these constraints needs to be relaxed. Increasing the overall aid budget would be the most desirable option,” the paper says.

Also, “China might itself begin providing substantially more grant financing in the Pacific. In that case, a stagnant aid budget would increasingly place Australia at a geostrategic disadvantage”.

The paper, titled “Ocean of debt? Belt and Road and debt diplomacy in the Pacific”, has been prepared by Roland Rajah, the head of the Institute’s international economy program, Alexandre Dayant, and Jonathan Pryke, the head of Lowy’s Pacific Islands program.

The work draws on data from the Institute’s Pacific Aid Map, the International Monetary Fund and the Asian Development Bank to examine China’s development finance in the Pacific.

It says China is the single largest creditor in Tonga, Samoa and Vanuatu, although only in Tonga does it account for more than half outstanding debt. “With the important exception of Tonga, China is currently not a dominant creditor in the Pacific.”

But the analysis finds: “there are significant risks of future debt sustainability problems under a business-as-usual scenario for bilateral Chinese lending”, pointing in particular to the situations of Vanuatu, Samoa, Tonga, and Fiji and Papua New Guinea.

“China will therefore need to reconfigure its approach significantly if it wants to disprove the debt trap accusations made by its critics,” the paper says, while noting it has taken some steps in this direction.

“Protecting debt sustainability in Pacific countries will also require Australian loans to be as concessional as possible, given elevated debt risks and the often limited economic viability of many infrastructure projects in the Pacific,” the paper says.

The competition among major powers gives Pacific countries an opportunity to press for advantageous financing and better project management, it says.

For their part external players should avoid “geopolitically-driven” assistance aimed at “short-term wins” at the expense of the reforms and improved governance the countries need.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

China’s worldwide investment project is a push for more economic and political power


<Amitrajeet A. Batabyal, Rochester Institute of Technology

Inspired by the ancient Silk Road, China is investing in a massive set of international development projects that are raising concerns about how the country is expanding its power around the world.

Initially announced in 2013 by Chinese President Xi Jinping, the so-called “Belt and Road Initiative” has China planning to invest in economic development and transportation in more than 130 countries and 30 international organizations. Projects range across Asia, but also include places in Africa, the Caribbean, Europe and South America.

With a projected cost of more than US$1 trillion, it may be the most ambitious infrastructure project undertaken in human history. The country hopes it will all be completed by 2049, the 100th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. My research in international economics with particular reference to China shows that Beijing has both economic and political plans for how these investments will pay off.

Economic effects

A rapidly growing China needs reliable access to energy. The Belt and Road Initiative includes pipeline construction and other building projects in oil- and gas-rich central Asia.

China also has an ambitious goal to dominate global production of electric cars – as well as other high-tech equipment – for which it needs reliable supplies of cobalt, a key ingredient in high-capacity batteries. More than half of the world’s supply comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo. China’s investment there has helped secure much of that crucial element for Chinese production.

Analysts and scholars have criticized these and other moves for economic dominance, arguing that taking the country’s money is like drinking from a “poisoned chalice” – a brief refreshment leading to certain death.

Sri Lanka, for instance, defaulted on debts it owed China for development at the port of Hambantota – and was forced to give the Chinese government control of the port for 99 years.

Chinese investments in the Pakistani port of Gwadar have set Pakistan up to owe China more than $10 billion.

A diverse group of world leaders attended China’s Belt and Road Forum in Beijing in April 2019.
Jason Lee/Pool Photo via AP

Political payoffs

As these countries get more closely tied to the Chinese economy, they also shift into the range of its political efforts, sparking several concerns about the country’s motivations. Navy analysts have called China’s growing control of ports in Asia – including Hambantota, Sri Lanka; and Gwadar, Pakistan – an effort to assemble a “string of pearls” with which it can dominate much of Asia.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad warned that China may be turning into a new colonial power.

The U.S. sees Chinese expansion as a security concern and has urged India to serve as a strong example that a Western-style democracy and society can succeed in Asia. In addition, the U.S. has proposed working with Australia, India and Japan on a massive development effort to rival China’s power.

The European Union is also unsure about China’s political intentions. Some of its members have joined individually, but others have expressed concerns that Chinese plans often overlook environmental and social sustainability – and that its bidding process is not sufficiently open to the public. There is some general European concern that China is seeking to divide Europe politically.

Recent reports suggest that Chinese investment in the Belt and Road Initiative – and international interest in Chinese funding – is slowing. In part that may be because, predictions and analysis aside, nobody knows for certain what China is aiming for – except to boost its own side in its rivalry with the U.S.

[ Expertise in your inbox. Sign up for The Conversation’s newsletter and get a digest of academic takes on today’s news, every day. ]The Conversation

Amitrajeet A. Batabyal, Arthur J. Gosnell Professor of Economics, Rochester Institute of Technology

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Define the boundaries in new phase of Australia-China relationship: Wong


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Shadow foreign minister Penny Wong says Australia needs to “define the boundaries” of its engagement with China now the relationship between the two countries is in a new phase.

Focusing on China policy in a Monday address – released ahead of delivery – Wong acknowledges the “substantial and growing differences” in the bilateral relationship.

“It is inevitable that Australia will make more decisions that China doesn’t like. This means that the way the relationship is handled will become even more important,” she says in the speech, to the Australian Institute of International Affairs.

“Although there continues to be convergence of interests, the divergences have become more apparent and acute – due to both Beijing’s increasing assertiveness and greater awareness in Australia as to the implications of the [Chinese Communist Party’s] behaviour and ambitions. We must look at how best to engage effectively with China while always standing up for our values, our sovereignty and our democratic system.”

Wong says where limitations around engagement are needed, the “boundaries should be as restricted as possible and as robust as necessary,” with opportunities and risks identified.

Boundaries and terms of engagement would differ between issues and between sectors.

Thus on research collaboration, engagement shouldn’t be ruled out across entire fields, but export controls and visa checks could be used for “a narrow set of the most sensitive defence oriented technology”.




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Wong says while the government has to provide the leadership all stakeholders, including the opposition, foreign policy community and business, “need to work together to identify those opportunities for deeper engagement where our interests coincide and to manage differences constructively”.

She puts the onus on the media “not only to hold the government of the day to account but to ensure they themselves don’t unthinkingly or inadvertently reinforce China’s tactics or narrative”, including by amplifying CCP claims.

Wong says Labor wants to engage in a bipartisan way on China policy, but the government isn’t willing to do so and Scott Morrison “has no plan for dealing with this new phase in Australia’s relations with China”.

“There’s no doubt Scott Morrison is the best political tactician in Australia right now… Is it enough to be a clever political tactician, when key relationships with our nearest neighbours are at stake? Is it enough to play short term political tactics on something so profoundly important as the integrity of our political system or the assertion of our national interests?

“Australia’s Prime Minister needs to look beyond the next manoeuvre, stop undermining his foreign minister and trade minister, and develop a serious long-term plan for Australia’s engagement in the region and the world.

“A serious and long-term plan that can proactively navigate us through the strategic competition between the US and China, and manage this new phase in our relationship with a more assertive China.”




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In a series of sharp criticisms of Morrison’s handling of the government’s policy towards China and foreign policy more generally, Wong includes as examples the PM’s claim Labor was using racism in its attack on Liberal MP Gladys Liu, his labelling of China a developed economy, and his attack on globalism.

Wong’s speech follows the blunt words on China on Friday from Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton, who said the government had a very important relationship with China, but it was going to “call out” instances where the wrong thing was done.

“We have a very important trading relationship with China, incredibly important, but we’re not going to allow university students to be unduly influenced. We’re not going to allow theft of intellectual property and we’re not going to allow our government bodies or non-government bodies to be hacked into,”he said.

Dutton stressed the issue was not with the Chinese people or the local Chinese community in Australia, but with the Chinese Communist Party.

The Chinese embassy reacted with an angry statement, saying that Dutton’s “irrational accusations” were “shocking and baseless”, and a “malicious slur on the Communist Party of China” and “outright provocation to the Chinese people”.

“Such ridiculous rhetoric severely harms the mutual trust between China and Australia and betrays the common interests of the two peoples,” the statement said.

Morrison at the weekend sought to play down the Dutton comments. “What Peter was talking about was the fact that there are differences between Australia and the People’s Republic of China. Of course there are,” he said. Australia was a liberal western democracy; China was a Communist Party state. “I would warn against any sort of over-analysis or over-reaction to those comments. Because I think they just simply reflect the fact that we’re two different countries”.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Students from China may defend their country but that doesn’t make them Communist Party agents



Chinese students come to Australia to study for the same reasons as other international students.
from shutterstock.com

Diarmuid Cooney-O’Donoghue, Monash University and Jonathan Benney, Monash University

Chinese students with nationalist sentiments can be seen as agents of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Such concerns were particularly evident during reports of clashes at Australian and New Zealand universities between pro-CCP and pro-Hong Kong students.

In similar recent clashes in Sheffield, UK, onlookers claimed Chinese students were threatening citizens’ right to protest and freedom of speech. There have been concerns the Chinese government is extending its influence into Western universities, threatening academic freedom, freedom of speech and liberal values.

Confucius Institutes are criticised as tools through which the Chinese government spreads its propaganda under the guise of teaching Chinese culture and language. Chinese students who aggressively protect their country’s reputation may be lumped into the same category.




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Explainer: what are Confucius Institutes and do they teach Chinese propaganda?


But research shows Chinese students come to Australia to study for much the same reasons as students from other countries – to gain a competitive edge over graduates in their home country by learning English and experiencing another culture.

Why students from China go overseas

Over the past 20 years, Chinese international students have become highly visible on Australian campuses. International students account for more than 50% of enrolments at some Australian universities and Chinese students make up nearly 40% of all international students.

While Chinese students study in Australia for many reasons, a recent study showed most were here for economic reasons. Having an international degree and English language skills can give job seekers an edge over their locally educated peers.

Acquiring permanent residency in Australia is also a common aim, although changes in policy are making this increasingly difficult. A 2010 study showed an American degree can also increase Chinese students’ social status in China.

A 2018 study of Chinese women studying in Australia showed studying abroad could be an opportunity to escape traditional expectations such as marrying early and having children. It also provides a chance for the students to explore their sexuality.

Does the CCP control Chinese students overseas?

Since the 1990s China has intensified its “ideological education” or “moral education” programs. These begin in the early years of school and continue throughout university. Ideological education aims to bolster support for the CCP and make liberal democracy less attractive.

Chinese international students have grown up with this education and have benefited from the economic success of the China Model. Some students from China fear political change inside China could threaten the country’s stability. But this doesn’t automatically mean they are hostile to liberal values.




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Why Chinese and Hong Kong students clash in Australia: the patriotic v the protest movement


Some students believe democracy is suited to Western nations only, or that multi-party democracies are more responsive to citizen demands. Others may be supportive of democracy, but still see criticism of China as Western bias.

The CCP recognises that international education can have a liberalising impact on students. In response, it seeks to extend its influence over students abroad, especially by providing economic and employment incentives to international students who support the CCP on their return to China.

Chinese Students and Scholars Associations maintain links between the PRC and Chinese students by holding social events and emphasising patriotism.

Some students who engage in anti-CCP activities have reported being threatened by the CCP. One Chinese student, who discussed sensitive political issues on social media in the US, claimed she was questioned for hours by state security when she returned to China.

The CCP encourages overseas students to challenge liberal values and shape China’s global image. Some Chinese students have challenged Australian lecturers who criticise China. If these challenges become hostile, students and lecturers may avoid discussing contentious topics such as human rights, the status of Taiwan, or the Tienanmen protests.

But students who reject criticism of China also demonstrate that they are expressing their right to free speech and confronting and learning about ideas contrary to their beliefs.




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Recent campus attacks show universities need to do more to protect international students


When Chinese students don’t support the CCP, it is still pragmatic for them to show support for the PRC, or at least keep a low profile to avoid risk to themselves and their families. Upholding the safety of students in Australia should be a priority for universities, even if it upsets the CCP.

Australian universities’ responsibilities to students from China

Australian universities promote themselves as internationalised, culturally diverse places where students can build global friendships. However, international students’ experiences often don’t reflect this.

Studying overseas is frequently alienating, and Chinese students’ experiences in Australia are no different.

PRC students mostly live in a “parallel society” without Australian friends. Brief interactions, or group work at university, can increase negative feelings because both international and local students believe the other’s opinions are biased, while language barriers also cause frustration.

Ideally, engaging Chinese students with liberal values would involve them studying social sciences in small classes. But universities and students have not pursued this; almost 80% of Chinese international students in Australia study engineering, science, IT, commerce and architecture in large lecture-style classes.

Encouraging students to engage in politics is an effective way of exposing them to democratic political processes and values. Discouraging or denying Chinese students the right to participate in student and national politics because of suspicions about their political loyalty is the exact opposite of the approach universities should be taking.The Conversation

Diarmuid Cooney-O’Donoghue, PhD student, Monash University and Jonathan Benney, Lecturer in Chinese Studies, Monash University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.